Go behind the scenes, meet the team and get some great tips for your own garden at home. Join us as we look back at the week that was…
After some very heavy rain the Garden Team began the week by chopping back plants in the Woodland Walk that had collapsed under their own weight and were lying across the path. Giant rhubarb (Gunnera manicata) and skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) were the worst offenders, but were soon put right again after a morning of judicious pruning.
Plants with naturally soft and floppy stems like the catmint (Nepeta) we grow in the Walled Garden will be easily flattened by a summer storm, but usually spring back to their original upright position when the sunshine returns. Instead, it’s plants with rigid, very succulent or woody stems, like those in the Woodland Walk that are most likely to break and snap.
Vulnerable plants in more formal areas of the garden are staked in advance to prevent damage, but in the wilder, wet woodland simply pruning away anything that looks unsightly is sufficient. Plants such as giant rhubarb are so vigorous that you can prune away without any fear of harming the plants long-term health or diminishing its impact.
Glasshouse Area Supervisor Abby has been busy creating a brilliant tropical looking display outside the Carnivorous Plant House using bromeliads, cannas and giant ginger lilies. At the center of it all is a new carnivorous plant frame filled with flowering North American pitcher plants (Sarracenia).
This old cold frame was starting to look a little tired, so Abby removed the lights (glazed lids used to cover the frame when it rains) and lined the base with trays filled with rain water for the acid-loving plants to stand in. We don’t have room in the main Carnivorous Plant House to show off all of our collection when it flowers, so this new space is a great way to get more of these fascinating plants on display.
North American pitcher plants are easy to care for at this time of year and are quite happy outside in the summer. Simply make sure that they have a plentiful supply of rain water at the root, lots of sunshine and something to eat! Even insect-munching carnivorous plants can be attacked by pests so keep a keen eye out for scale insects and mealy bugs and remove as soon as they appear.
Garden Volunteers Mike and Meryl were mulching our new Arboretum Lawn Borders on Wednesday. Now that all of the spring planting has been completed, the Garden Team will be applying 20 tons of fine pine bark ‘mini-chip’ at a depth of about 2 inches between the newly planted plants.
This mulch is going to really help reduce the number of hours of maintenance required in these borders over the next couple of years. Until the new plants have matured there will be lots of room for weeds to grow and invade the space, but mulching heavily with a dense, sterile material like this will help to prevent weed seed germination and inhibit growth.
“We’ve planted over 1000 plants in the last few months and now is the time to step back and observe how the new plants establish and perform before a second round of planting begins again in the autumn. Some plants will be split and divided to help create repetition through the borders, those that haven’t worked will be removed, and new selections will be planted in their place.” Daniel Cartwright, Head Gardener
On Thursday, Garden Volunteers Mike and Maya were hard at work helping to weed and tidy the Sandstone Rock Garden. There are lots of invasive species that thrive in the damp conditions of the Rock Garden but by far the hardest to control is the horsetail (Equisetum arvense).
Horsetail is an extremely invasive perennial weed that produces underground rhizomes that can be up to 2 meters beneath the surface of the soil and tall (up to 60cm) miniature tree-like spires of foliage in summer. It is quick to grow and spread and effective at bullying out more desirable, ornamental species of garden plant.
Because it is so deeply rooted, digging out horsetail is almost impossible in an ordinary garden environment where such deep excavation just isn’t practical. Pulling off newly emerging foliage as it appears in spring is probably the next best option. Several years of diligent control in this way will keep the horsetail small and weak, and allow other plants to establish and get bigger, choking out the space in which the weed wants to grow.
The week ended with staff and children from our next door neighbors at the Maples Day Nursery checking on their ‘hedgehog tunnels’ that they have installed at various places in the garden designed to help monitor the local hedgehog population.
The tunnels are lined with white paper and baited with food surrounded by harmless ink so that when a hedgehog passes through, attracted by the food, it leaves an easily detectable footprint trail as it goes. The children have loved replenishing the food and paper inside the tunnel, looking at all the different prints and working out what they are.
“Each day we’ve had lots of small prints which we think were mice. We’ve also had lots of slugs and snails but unfortunately no hedgehogs! We’ve moved the tunnel to various different places in the gardens at Winterbourne – we’re trying our best to find a hedgehog!” Shelby Wells, Deputy Manager, Maples Day Nursery